Washington Nationals Rally Late For 6-5 Win Over Atlanta Braves; Bryce Harper Hits First HR This Spring

US PRESSWIRE

The Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 6-5 tonight after rallying in the eighth inning. Nats' outfielder Bryce Harper hit his first Grapefruit League home run and Jordan Zimmermann made his second start of the year, throwing 49 pitches in 3.0 IP in which he struck out four...

20-year-old Washington Nationals' outfielder Bryce Harper faced 22-year-old Atlanta Braves' right-hander Julio Teheran with two down in the top of the first of tonight's Grapefruit League game in Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in the Disney World Resort. Coming into the game, Harper, who was in center tonight though he'll play left this season, was 6 for 10 with two doubles so far this Spring. The Nats' 2010 no.1overall pick was 7 for 11 with two doubles and a home run after his first at bat which saw the hard-hitting slugger send a fly ball out toward new Braves' left fielder Justin Upton, into the wind and over the left field fence for Harper's first home run and a 1-0 lead.

Nationals' starter Jordan Zimmermann retired the first batter he faced in the bottom of the inning, getting Reed Johnson swinging, but 23-year-old Braves' outfielder Jason Heyward found the same breeze Harper's home run rode and sent a line drive soaring on it and out to left to tie the game at 1-1 after one inning in Atlanta's Lake Buena Vista, Florida home. 19 pitches, 15 strikes for Zimmermann in the first. 4 for 13 with 3 HRs for Heyward so far in Spring Training. After a 1-2-3 second for Teheran, Zimmermann struck Dan Uggla out for his third K in 1.1 IP. Juan Francisco singled with one down in the Braves' second, moved up on a grounder to third by 21-year-old catcher Christian Bethancourt and then scored to make it 2-1 when Reed Johnson singled to center to give Atlanta the lead. 16-pitch inning for Zimmermann, 35 pitches after 2.0.

Teheran struck Sandy Leon and Eury Perez out in the top of the third, then had Danny Espinosa throwing his bat into the stands on an ugly swing, miss and toss. The Braves' right-hander got Espinosa swinging for three-straight Ks and five total in 3.0 IP with Harper's home run the only hit for the Nationals through three. Jordan Zimmermann's third inning of work saw him retire the Braves in order, striking B.J. Upton out with an 0-2 fastball to end the inning with his 4th K of the night. 14-pitch frame. 49 total. Zimmermann's line: 3.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 Ks, 49 pitches, 39 strikes.

30-year-old lefty Dusty Hughes took over for Atlanta in the top of the fourth, gave up a two-out single by Tyler Moore, but added two more Ks in a scoreless frame for seven total Ks by Nats' batters tonight. As the Braves' broadcast team noted, Teheran struck out 5 of the 10 batters he faced. Ross Ohlendorf hit the only batter he let on in Atlanta's fourth, plunking Christian Bethancourt to give the Braves a two-out runner before he retired shortstop Ramiro Pena on a fly to left. The first two Braves in the fifth reached base with Reed Johnson singling and Jason Heyward bunting his way on by rolling a perfect one to third Chad Tracy had no hope of playing. Two outs later, B.J. Upton brought both runners in with a line drive, two-run double off Ohlendorf that made it 4-1 Braves.

Ryan Buchter, a 26-year-old lefty in camp with Atlanta, was a Washington Nationals' '05 33rd Round pick out of Gloucester County Community College in Sewell, NJ who pitched for three years in the Nats' system, rising as high as Class-A Hagerstown in 2008. Since then he's bounced back and fourth between the Braves and Chicago Cubs' organizations, with seven minor league seasons total on his resume. The Braves' reliever retired the Nationals in order in the top of the sixth. Nats' RHP Tyler Clippard made his first appearance this Spring in the bottom of the frame. Clipp got help from Harper on a nice catch in center, then struck Christian Bethancourt out with a cruel change. Ramiro Pena flew to left for out no.3 in a 1-2-3- frame by the Nats' set-up man. 9-pitch inning for Clippard according to Twitter.

Bryce Harper reached on an error by Atlanta shortstop Tyler Pastornicky in the Nationals' seventh. 28-year-old Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico-born lefty Daniel Rodriguez retired the next retired the next two batters before Chris Marrero came through with a two-out single. Nats' outfielder Jimmy Van Ostrand grounded to short to end the frame, however, and it was 4-1 Atlanta after six and a half in the Braves' Spring home. Fernando Abad struck Braves' outfielder Jason Parraz out to start the home-half of the seventh, but Joe Terdaslovich sent a 92 mph fastball back into center for a one-out single off the Nats' lefty. Abad popped Todd Cunningham up and struck out Joe Leonard for 3.0 scoreless innings of work so far this Spring.

The Nationals rallied in the eighth against Braves' right-hander Cory Rasmus. Jhonatan Solano and Eury Perez singled in front of Anthony Rendon. The Nats' top prospect walked to load the bases and a Will Rhymes single got the Nats within two. 4-2 Braves. Rasmus walked '07 Nats' 3rd Round pick Steven Souza to force in Washington's third run of the game. 4-3. Zach Walters popped out for the first out of the inning, but Carlos Rivero doubled off the wall in the next AB and cleared the bases to give the Nationals a 6-4 lead. Wirfin Obispo struck Matt Skole out for out no.2 and Jimmy Van Ostrand popped out to end the eighth.

Cole Kimball struck Jordan Parraz and Dan Uggla out to start the Braves' eighth before issuing a two-out walk to veteran infielder Blake DeWitt. A groundout to Anthony Rendon at short, yes short, by Jose Yepez ended Kimball's third scoreless frame of the Spring. 6-4 Nationals after eight. 22-year-old Braves' '09 10th Round pick, right-hander Aaron Northcraft retired Jhonatan Solano, Eury Perez and Anthony Rendon in order in the top of the ninth.

Jeremy Accardo worked the bottom of the ninth for the Nats, giving up a leadoff single by Tyler Pastornicky and a one-out single by Joe Terdaslovich to put two on for Todd Cunningham, whose RBI single got Atlanta within one. 6-5. Joe Leonard popped out to Matt Skole foul of first for out no.2. Jordan Parraz's groundout to second was fielded by Will Rhymes, but he had no outs and simply held it. Bases loaded. Elmer Reyes grounded back to the mound, however, ballgame. Nats win 6-5 final.

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